Happy Easter

Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

I just read in the New York Times about a program that matches service dogs to war veterans with PTSD. The dogs are trained by incarcerated convicts in a separate program called Puppies Behind Bars.

I’ve loved dogs from the time I was a very small child. I used to nap as a three-year-old with my head on the belly of Jake, our long-suffering and extraordinarily gentle boxer. As the years passed, we had a poodle, Boston terriers Hector and Albert, and boxers Pete and Mugs. I moved away from home, joined the Air Force, and missed my four-legged companions fiercely.

But it wasn’t long before I had dogs again. There was Annie, a miniature dachshund. Greta, a mutt-mix of pug and who-knows-what. Max, the wire-haired dachshund. Nessie, a rescued Lab/Doberman mix, the sweetest-natured dog I’ve ever known, apart from my current lil’ buddy, Finny McCool. There’s Logan, a Queensland heeler/border collie mix, the other dog who is still an integral part of my family. And there was my parent’s compassionate, funny old boxer Mugs, the second with that goofy name, who died of old age just last year.

Mugs helped my father recover after his last heart surgery. As Dad walked slowly and precariously along the back deck, building his strength back up, Mugs walked along with him. Back and forth, back and forth. When Dad died eight years later, Mugs became my Mom’s closest companion, her friend, and her living link to sweet memories of her late husband. He brought her through the devastation of grief, showing her as much, if not more devotion as he had my Dad, right up to the end.

All of these Good Dogs have cumulatively given me a half-century of love, joy and laughter. I cannot imagine how much less full my life might have been without them.

And now, to read that other good-hearted, loving dogs help men who have faced and still face years of their lives locked up in prison makes me misty-eyed.

But that these same men are training these dogs to help veterans who have been injured in mind and body in war, who have given their youths and the best, most productive parts of their lives to serve their country, who are broken, changed and in need their love and devotion makes me bawl.

Please read the story. And be sure to watch the video linked in the sidebar.

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3 Responses to “Happy Easter”

  1. I also grew up with dogs (not “raised by dogs,” as some have suggested), and I still love them. These days because of circumstance I am learning to love cats, too, and I find them weird but not without redeeming qualities.

    And — sorry, I can’t help this — I am horrified and disgusted that young people are still, as they were in primitive cultures, forced onto battlefields to kill and be killed and maimed and mentally damaged to the point where they need “psychological service dogs” just to live out their lives.

    Like you, this story brought me to tears.

  2. Larry, I am also horrified by war, and the fact that we’re still up to our eyebrows in two of them. I want it so much to be over. We’ve sacrificed way too many of our young people in these wars of the new millenium — wars without a purpose.

    Still, I’m glad that there are groups that are there, trying to help them after they return. PTSD is a terrible disability by itself, without adding physical disabilities to the mix. I hope that more and more of our veterans are given access to programs like this.

    Thanks for commenting. You’ve been on my mind. I hope you’re doing well.

  3. Bob Herbert’s column in today’s NY Times says it pretty well, and many of the accompanying comments express my own feelings on the subject. We owe our veterans. We should support them and take care of them forever. But most importantly, we should pledge to stop creating more of them.

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